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Marble Brewery launches $1.5 million expansion

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Ted Rice, Marble Brewery’s president and co-owner, said the first priority with Marble’s current expansion is to “saturate the hometown market.” More than 95 percent of what Marble makes today is sold in New Mexico. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of the country’s most decorated small breweries is about to get bigger.

Albuquerque’s Marble Brewery on Wednesday broke ground on a $1.5 million expansion project at its flagship Downtown location that will more than double its beer-making capacity and increase seating with a new rooftop deck. Owners say the extra 7,000 square feet of space will help Marble meet growing demand for a product that it can no longer make fast enough.

“Before we even think about making a drop of beer, everything is sold — which is a beautiful place to be, but it’s a challenging place to be,” said Ted Rice, Marble’s president and one of its owners. “My sales manager (jokes) he wasn’t actually a ‘sales manager,’ he was a ‘shortage specialist.'”

Marble — which has been stuck brewing between 12,500 and 13,000 barrels of beer annually for the last few years due to space constraints — will be able to produce about 30,000 barrels with the addition of the new space and equipment.

“It’s been a long time in the making (and) we’re pretty fired up,” Rice told a small crowd that gathered at Marble for Wednesday’s ceremony.

More than 95 percent of Marble’s current output is sold in New Mexico, and Rice said it’s possible that in-state thirst for its product could keep that ratio the same even after the major expansion. Though a small portion of its beer ends up in Colorado and Arizona, Marble co-owner Soren Peters noted that the company pulled out of certain parts of Colorado to focus on New Mexico.

“The first priority with this (new) space is to saturate the hometown market,” Rice said.

The production area expansion should conclude by December, while the plan is to complete the rooftop deck above the existing pub by the spring of 2016.

Marble joins a list of local craft breweries in expansion mode. La Cumbre and Bosque Brewing Co. each have upped their production capacity, and Canteen — formerly Il Vicino — is poised to do the same. Chris Goblet of the New Mexico Brewers Guild said the state’s breweries are on pace to make an estimated 80,000 barrels of beer this year, up from about 65,000 barrels last year. He expects production to reach about 120,000 barrels in 2016.

The local craft brewing industry has shown no signs of a slowdown. Goblet said the state has 47 operational breweries today and that the pipeline holds another “dozen or more.” And all now have more flexibility when it comes to locations — effective this week, New Mexico breweries can have three off-site taprooms. The law had previously allowed for only two.

Marble’s current expansion follows a series of other major developments for the 7-year-old brewery. In the last year alone, Marble earned “Small Brewery of the Year” honors at the Great American Beer Festival, revamped its logo and package design and renovated its Downtown pub.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry spoke at Wednesday’s ground-breaking, lauding Marble for its role creating jobs and helping to put Albuquerque on the map. He called it a “really proud hometown moment,” and related a recent conversation he had with some people at a Whole Foods beer garden in San Jose, Calif.

“They knew all about Marble, even out there,” he said.

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